Looking back: From Toombullup to Tatura

By Tatura Guardian

December 21, 1993: Tatura Primary School vice-principal Jeff Baker has retired from his teaching career, which has spanned more then 30 years and taken him across the world.

Jeff recalled his first posting with fond memories last week, being sent to the tiny settlement of Toombullup after completing teachers’ college.

The one-room school boasted the whopping total of eight children.

It was a culture shock for Jeff, who was city born and raised, being sent to such an isolated posting, but he enjoyed his time there.

‘‘It was great — I stayed with a family on their potato farm and learnt to play snow football,’’ he said.

From Toombullup Jeff moved on to Barramunga, another speak on the map in the Otway ranges.

In between his teaching commitments, Jeff was able to further another of his interests, playing football with the Forrest Football Club.

Jeff’s itchy feet then took him on to Papua Guinea, for a stint teaching at Bogia on the north coast of PNG.

‘‘We were opposite a volcanic island and witnessed plenty of eruptions,’’ Jeff said.

A posting in PNG would be a culture shock for anyone, particularly for a young Australian teacher who had just turned 21.

It was at Jeff’s next posting, back in Victoria at the picturesque town of Yea where he met his future wife, Judy.

‘‘I met Judy at the Yarck dance. Her family was well entrenched in the district and her father was the station manager at Cathkin.’’

Jim Dunn took a liking to Jeff Baker and found him to be a fit and proper person — a good catch for his daughter.

Jeff and Judy moved to Tatura in 1966 and they married in 1969.

The Tatura school at the time was located where the new RWC officers are being constructed today.

Twelve months’ leave of absence allowed Jeff and Judy to travel to the United Kingdom for a sample of British education.

‘‘As out system is based on the British model, it was fairly similar,’’ said Jeff, who taught in Devon.

Then it was back Down Under again, this time to Burbank High School in Reservoir.

Other postings and promotions followed at Rosanna, Burbank, Echuca South, Mooroopna and Tatura, where he finished his final day last week.

Jeff and Judy also found time to raise three daughters during their jaunts around Victoria and across the globe.

Unfortunately, some recent changes to the education system have left Jeff a little disenchanted, which helped him make the decision to retire and pursue some of his own interests, such as music, which he developed extensively at Tatura Primary School.

He says seeing children develop through their school life to go onto bigger and better things has been a great pleasure for him and he will miss working with the children.

However, as captain at Hill Top Golf Club, among other things, Jeff has no doubts he’ll be busy in retirement.

And what about Jeff’s funniest recollection for his time as a teacher?

It was in PNG, as he explains.

‘‘We had a young boy who looked after the place — he did most of the household duties. One day I asked him to clean my suede shoes, and he had completed the task, he seemed terribly worried. He came running to me shouting ‘‘Sorry! Sorry!’’

It turned out he’d boiled the shoes to get them clean, which completely reshaped them — we both had a good laugh about that.’’

Jeff tells of another story where a gentleman in PNG asked a local for two plucked chickens to be left in his home.

‘‘The gentleman arrived home and searched high and low for the chickens, which were eventually found alive and plucked in the fridge!’’

While chicken plucking isn’t high on Jeff’s list of possible hobbies in his retirement, a recent advertisement in television caught his eye and interest.

‘‘It was for flying a glider, which I reckon would be okay,’’ said Jeff.

We wish him well in the skies should he decide to take it up.